Dr. Z's All-Pro Team

December 30, 2002

Sometimes a quarterback, through sheer force of will, unites and
rallies a team around him. The Titans' Steve McNair, battling
injuries and playing with remarkable courage and intensity, did
so this year, and the only statistic that reflects it is his
team's 10--5 record. McNair is the quarterback on my All-Pro
team, even though Pro Bowl voters all but ignored him.

Three 49ers are on the offense. Fullback Fred Beasley, who was
always a punishing blocker, is the game's premier short-yardage
big back. Derrick Deese, one of the smaller tackles in the game
at 289 pounds, has been one of the most tenacious. And wideout
Terrell Owens, whose big-play ability is unmatched, carries San
Francisco's passing attack.

I've picked a pair of Chiefs from assistant coach Mike Solari's
finely tuned offensive line: tackle William Roaf, who's enjoying
yet another renaissance following his off-season trade from New
Orleans, and center Casey Wiegmann, whose mobility and range are
big reasons why my running back, Priest Holmes, was the league's
leading rusher until getting hurt on Dec. 15. In a season in
which almost every team had a runner who put up big numbers, no
club had anyone to match Holmes, the key man on the NFL's
highest-scoring offense.

Todd Heap, who was simply unstoppable in some games, is the
choice at tight end. And, of course, the Colts' Marvin Harrison,
the single-season-record holder, is a lock at the other wideout
spot.

Finally, both guards, the Steelers' Alan Faneca and the Eagles'
Jermane Mayberry, are strictly sock-it-to-'em guys, leading
running games that are at their best when they're banging
straight ahead.

Defense is the province of the Buccaneers, who fill three spots
on my unit. End Simeon Rice has always been a gifted pass rusher,
but in his two years with Tampa Bay he has taken the run
seriously. Outside linebacker Derrick Brooks, now recovered from
injuries that slowed him last season, is the game's premier
weakside backer, and Ronde Barber is the finest corner I've seen
this season.

The Dolphins' Jason Taylor is a relentless rusher from his right
end spot, often beating the double team with his speed. Vikings
tackle Chris Hovan gets off the ball so quickly that he appears
to be offside, but he is also technically gifted against the run.
Raiders tackle Rod Coleman wears a linebacker's number (57) and
often doesn't start, but after the preliminaries are over and the
battle is on, he takes the field and seldom leaves it, because he
is the best interior pass rusher in the game.

The Steelers' Joey Porter is my rush linebacker, in the old LT
mold, and with Ray Lewis on the shelf, the Bears' far-ranging
Brian Urlacher has the middle linebacker position to himself. The
Eagles' hyperactive Brian Dawkins is a repeater at free safety,
and at strong safety Tony Parrish did a great job of keeping the
Niners' secondary together during rough times. Dale Carter got
all the publicity in the New Orleans secondary, but Fred Thomas,
playing injured at times, is the real ball-hawking cornerback.

My kicker, the Patriots' Adam Vinatieri, is virtually the
statistical twin of the Eagles' David Akers, but I'll give it to
Vinatieri on the strength of his 57-yarder against the Bears. The
numbers speak most loudly for our punter, the Panthers' Todd
Sauerbrun. The Saints' Michael Lewis has been dramatic as a punt
and kick returner. Our special teams choice is the Jets' Jerald
Sowell, a guided missile as a blocker on the wedge and a big
reason why New York has the AFC leaders in kick and punt
returns. --Paul Zimmerman

Check out Dr. Z's Inside Football every week during the season at
cnnsi.com/football.

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER In a big year for running backs, no one put up better numbers than Holmes.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)